Fox News host Tucker Carlson was mocked on social media this week for stating that he had been told that the National Security Agency was reading his private emails and spying on him. The usual suspects called Carlson paranoid, because there are so many checks and balances to assure the feds would never illegally target a vexatious Biden critic. However, on Tuesday, a dissent by Travis LeBlanc, a member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, revealed that one of the NSA’s most intrusive surveillance engines, XKeyscore, may be violating federal law and Americans’ rights and privacy.
In 2013, Edward Snowden leaked documents proving that XKeyscore was the surveillance state’s incarnation of paranoia. What did it take for the NSA to justify vacuuming up Americans’ emails and internet data? Merely detecting “someone searching the web for suspicious stuff.” The peril of that farcical standard was compounded because, as Snowden explained, NSA surveillance tools enabled him to “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email.” Thanks to its all-encompassing standard of “suspicious,” NSA has “assembled on the order of 20 trillion [email and phone] transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens,” according to former NSA senior analyst William Binney. Six months after Snowden’s disclosures began, federal judge Richard Leon issued a ruling denouncing the NSA surveillance regime as “almost Orwellian”: “I cannot imagine a more indiscriminate and arbitrary invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval.”
After the uproar created by the Snowden revelations, the civil liberties watchdog board leaped into action to investigate XKeyscore. Six years later, the board finished its 56-page report, a confidential version of which was provided to the White House and select members of Congress in March. Unfortunately, the board apparently did not have time to look under any rocks to see what the NSA might be hiding. In a dissent partially declassified on Tuesday, LeBlanc complained that the board failed to ask “how many U.S. persons have been impacted by XKeyscore, how much data the program collects and analyzes, how widely information analyzed through XKeyscore is shared, the number of lives saved, or the number of terrorist events averted as a result of XKeyscore.” In 2019, XKeyscore resulted in “hundreds of compliance incidents,” and LeBlanc noted that “U.S. law and the known collection or processing of U.S. person information are serious compliance issues.” However, the civil liberties oversight board did not “request specific information” about violations of U.S. law by NSA. LeBlanc groused that the board’s report “reads more like a book report of the XKeyscore program than an independent oversight analysis.”
Continue reading this article at The American Conservative